NBN Co strike a hurdle in its bid to rein in competition from 5G operators late yesterday, with Australia’s competition watchdog more obviously defining when it will take into account 5G “substitutable” for fixed-line services.

The Australian Levels of competition and Consumer Fee (ACCC) late yesterday verified a December draft choice to increase a established of restrictions imposed on fixed-line rivals to NBN Co by a further five yrs.

By the approach, the ACCC had been under tension from NBN Co to also regulate wireless competition, such as cellular suppliers of ‘home broadband’ 5G services.

“NBN Co considers that mobile engineering, such as 5G engineering, are productive complex substitutes for fixed-line broadband services,” NBN Co had mentioned. [pdf]

NBN Co bolstered that posture very last thirty day period, arguing 5G operators ended up hard its monopoly standing in quite a few industry segments.

But the ACCC has now formally rebuffed NBN Co’s makes an attempt to have 5G operators categorised as competition to the NBN in the similar way that other suppliers of “superfast” fixed-line services are.

In denying NBN Co’s request, the ACCC took the chance to established even clearer suggestions on when it would entertain 5G services as currently being a substitute for a fixed-line services.

The difficulty of substitutability has existed for some time, although so has the ACCC’s opposition to declaring 5G and fixed-line broadband as competing products and solutions.

In its draft choice in December [pdf], the ACCC mentioned 5G fixed wireless services are “potentially substitutable” and “are becoming a substitute for fixed line broadband services thanks to their increasing speeds and data allowances.”

“However, wireless broadband services are currently substitutes in only a confined number of places and eventualities,” the ACCC mentioned.

“The extent to which wireless broadband services can be regarded as an productive substitute is dependent on geographic protection, use requires and profits.”

The ACCC promised a more complete evaluation in its closing choice, and has shipped in that regard, with new language that sets a substantial bar for 5G to ever be deemed a substitute for a fixed-line services.

That new language implies that 5G – or even emerging satellite services like Starlink – would want to have the similar “comprehensive” and “universal” traits as the NBN just before they would be subjected to the similar form of regulations that keep NBN Co’s fixed-line competition in examine.

“The ACCC maintains the look at that broadband services presented over wireless alternatives (these kinds of as mobile, satellite and fixed wireless) are not complete substitutes to a fixed line broadband connection at this time,” it mentioned. [pdf]

“The ACCC recognises that there are some ongoing developments in wireless technologies, these kinds of as the 5G rollout and deployment of LEO [lower Earth orbit] satellite units, which have the prospective to grow to be a substitute for fixed-line broadband services the place these wireless services are presented and as more limitless data plans grow to be offered.

“However, wireless technologies are unlikely to offer a common substitute for fixed line broadband services across Australia within just [five yrs].”

The ACCC mentioned that it would “consider regulating these networks if a compelling case could be created that these networks hold important industry ability.”

That would partially be dependent on reach the ACCC famous that “at this stage, the impression of wireless as a substitute for fixed line broadband is likely to be modest thanks to its confined footprint.”

“This indicates only a confined number of people currently have a selection of access engineering,” the fee mentioned.

“The speedy pace of enhancement in the superfast broadband industry, and the degree to which conclude-users might substitute their fixed line services for wireless technologies might transform as further expense takes place, extra spectrum is released and more people have access to wireless services. 

“It is clear, on the other hand, that the extent of competition is likely to change spot-to-spot. 

“Those residing in densely populated places are likely to advantage more or quicker than those people the place it is much less commercially eye-catching to establish competing infrastructure.”

That sets a significantly better bar than simply having an NBN-like merchandise build in-industry.